To state that Atlanta is a “real estate city” is a bit like saying Nashville is kind of a music-focused town. The commercial real estate market is a dominant force here. But, so too, is the booming technology industry. Where the two markets intersect, Atlanta provides a fertile climate for the rise of Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) as transformative real estate tools.
A recent event titled “Leveraging the Next Generation of Design Technologies to Improve ROI” at the Atlanta office of law firm Polsinelli put a spotlight on this transformation. “One would be hard pressed to name another city in the U.S. where such a perfect intersection exists with a dominant commercial real estate presence on one hand, and one of the fastest growing markets for technology companies on the other,” said the event’s host, Mike Rodgers.
There are three main reasons why VR/AR is such a breakthrough for Atlanta’s architects, designers and commercial real estate providers: expectations, execution and engagement.
VR/AR helps clients visualize the options for their new space ahead of construction. For designers, 3D VR modeling can also mean less time doing renderings and creating mock-ups.
VR/AR makes the design process more mutual and collaborative, allowing the full range of participants — from developer, designer and architect to engineer and contractor — to participate in faster, more confident progress reviews and mid-project changes.
For commercial real estate providers, VR/AR helps them entice prospective tenants and buyers. For architects, designers and contractors, VR/AR immerses clients viscerally in their own project and ensures they are completely on board.
These Companies Are — Virtually — Leading the Way
Atlanta has been home to one of the country’s early VR leaders, Motion Reality Inc, since its founding in 1984. Motion Reality uses VR to create combat training modules for the military; their technology is used in films like Lord of the Rings and Avatar. Pioneers like Motion Reality have spawned more recent Atlanta ventures that focus VR/AR advancements on the real estate market. VR solution developer Vimtrek (SmartBIM) converts an architect’s modeling files into immersive, interactive 3D walk-throughs.
Commercial real estate giant CBRE recently acquired Floored, an interactive 3D graphics company which develops customized 3D walk-throughs used for property leasing and marketing. According to CBRE sales manager Kala Halbert, the Atlanta office now utilizes Floored on nearly all of their projects— at no extra cost to clients.
TRICK 3D is another Atlanta-based VR company amidst a foray into using VR for real estate. The company’s newest offering, Floorplan Revolution, takes a different approach than competitors like Floored. Instead of emphasizing space-planning tools for designers, it supports those looking to sell properties that are under construction, enabling potential tenants and buyers to experience their spaces before they are even fully built.
Atlanta is also home to several VR service providers that support the local real estate market with existing technologies. Companies like Sparklar, an AR/VR marketing agency, and Raider Films, a commercial film production company with VR capabilities, help “built environment” companies with VR tools. Raider, for instance, has created fully animated fly-through visualizations of interior spaces that look completely real.
The Atlanta arm of architecture firm Perkins+Will has invested substantially in its own VR/AR production capabilities. They recently used the technology on projects like the interiors of the new Bacchanalia restaurant and the landscape design for the redevelopment of Atlanta Dairies complex.
In the new Nashville headquarters of tire and rubber company Bridgestone, the Perkins + Will design team used VR to model the building’s restaurant. By allowing the client to experience every surface and detail of a relatively complex two-story design, VR was instrumental in quickly reaching resolution on design issues.
Training A New Generation
Universities in the region are exploring new technologies and advancing unique VR/AR applications for architecture, construction and commercial real estate. Georgia Tech hosts both the Augmented Environments Lab and the Center for Geographic Information Systems’ Immersive Visualization & Simulation initiatives.
Georgia State University has launched the Creative Media Industries Institute (CMII) that houses an AR/VR Virtual Production Studio and LABS. Real estate is a key vertical market for CMII. Its first foray into VR production is in conjunction with another Atlanta VR firm, Extremality: the two are constructing a 3D VR tour of the Institute’s new space in the old SunTrust Bank building in downtown Atlanta.
“It’s an amazing time to be working with virtual and augmented reality— it is so crazy what’s affordable and possible,” says Candice Alger, Professor of Practice, AR, VR, Virtual Production at CMII. “If you’re not at least exploring it, you may soon be road kill.”
The more that players across Atlanta’s “built environment” ecosystem experiment with and embrace this new technology, the more quickly the promise of these technologies may be realized. And Atlanta will rightfully lay claim to another innovative field that drives both our economy and our skyline.
Photos courtesy of Perkins + Will, TRICK 3D
Joyce Fownes, Principal Allied ASID, Allied IIDA, LEED AP BD+C is Interior Design discipline leader and the Corporate Interior market sector leader for Perkins+Will’s Atlanta office.